The creator of Amazon Studios’ acclaimed Transparent has an endgame timetable planned out for the streaming series, she said today. “In my mind, it’s 5 years It’s 5-years because Six Feet Under went for 5-years, “ Jill Soloway told me after delivering the filmmaker keynote Saturday morning at the Film Independent Forum, held at the DGA HQ. “Five years because for some reason 5-years equals syndication money, even though this is a whole different ballgame. I don’t even know if syndication is part of the model,” the former Six Feet Under producer added.
Transparent was renewed for a second season just two weeks after its September 26 debut of all 10 episodes of Season 1 went up simultaneously on Amazon Prime. At the time of renewal, Amazon said that Jeffrey Tambor-led ensemble of a family dealing with its patriarch becoming a matriarch has proved to be the most binge-watched TV series on Prime Instant Video ever. Nearly 80% of all viewers binging on two or more episodes in the same day, claims the Jeff Bezos formed company.
That access and business model is clearly a big part of the industry’s future as Hollywood concentrates on big budget action movies, says Soloway. As is the lack of network notes, she adds.
“Silicon Valley is up in San Francisco and they’ve got nothing but ideas and money,” Soloway said of the new players in town. “Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and even places like YouTube, these are people who are trying to reinvent content and they are absolutely going to spend money on it. And they don’t do the kind of micromanaging that the TV networks do.” the director/writer noted. “The only person I deal with on a day-to-day basis and it isn’t even day-to-day but once a week, is Joe Lewis,” Soloway said of the VP Production at Amazon Studios. “He comes in a speaks about big ideas not small ones, he doesn’t micromanage, he doesn’t give me line notes.”
Transparent is the first of four new series to emerge from Amazon’s second development season. The Gary Trudeau created Alpha House was the breakout show of the first development season and had its Season 2 10-episodes debut on Friday.
“At the networks there are people who believe they can make things better by changing the rhythm of a sentence, about a joke not being funny,’ Soloway recalls of previous gigs. “They have 20 people involved in every page of the content. Now I just have Joe.” Soloway noted that the whole philosophy of AS was summed up for her by a note in Lewis’ office that reads “More creative freedom equals better quality equals more audiences equals more money equals more creative freedom.”
Traveling the road to creative freedom was the theme of Soloway’s keynote at the 10th annual FI event. In a sharp one-liner heavy 45-minute address, Soloway told the packed main DGA auditorium that her remarks were going to “be very motivatey and inspirey.” She added to the first of many laughs, “I ain’t going to sugar coat, I have some horrible truths to share.” And Soloway did share.
The ex-United States Of Tara showrunner told the crowd that 3-years ago after HBO passed on a pilot of hers, she was seriously thinking of leaving Hollywood for a life in northern California. “Lot of balls in the air, no money balls. I had to get a job.” Even with her established credits that was a lot harder than Soloway expected. “The word out there is you’re difficult,” Soloway revealed to the audience her agent told her.
Without naming almost any names, except actress Jane Lynch and a potential gig on “Blamerican Blurry Blory,” Soloway spent the first part of her speech detailing the all too brief highs and that very hard scramble of getting work in Hollywood before deciding to make her own film. That film eventually became 2013’s Afternoon Delight, which won Soloway the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance that year. It was supposed to happen so I could write Transparent,” she said of the whole experience from being so despondent and broke to success with her feature debut.
“Getting the green light to make the Transparent pilot and then season divided my life to before and after,” Soloway admitted. “When people ask me if I like TV or movies better, I say there is no difference – except I couldn’t finance a series or a 5-hour film on my own,” she added, praising the relationship with Amazon and the way they have marketed the series.
Soloway noted that she tried to do things differently on Transparent than she had experienced on past shows. “Filmmaking is really like throwing a great party,” she said of the tone and organizational skills she brought to the series’ set. ” I set up an environment that reversed the polarity of filmmaking and TVmaking,” she added, rejecting the industry standard of time and money constraints determining so much of the process. “It’s artmaking, it’s play. We have plenty of time, we have plenty of money and there is light everywhere, we’re not running out of anything.”
“I went through my whole life felt like I was trying to get somewhere, say something and there is a feeling with Transparent that I’ve done enough for minute and feel that feeling that people like it.”